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Student Friars Complete Internships to Prepare for Final Vows

As part of the formation process, prior to requesting solemn profession of vows, each Holy Name friar completes a yearlong internship — a time in a ministry that both the friar and the Province’s leadership feel best utilize the talents and interests of the individual, while also responding to the Province’s needs. This story profiles the internships of the student friars who, after a retreat in Italy, will profess their final vows on August 23.

Three friars — Ross Chamberland, OFM, Jeffery Jordan, OFM, and Michael Reyes, OFM — are expressing gratitude for the opportunities offered by their recently-completed internships. Ross and Jeffery served in various capacities at St. Bonaventure University in Allegany, N.Y., and Michael ministered at St. Paul’s Church in Wilmington, Del., while creating artwork with renowned iconographer Robert Lentz, OFM, in Silver Spring, Md.

Ross Chamberland
Ross spent the past year as an adjunct professor teaching a course on “The Catholic Franciscan Heritage,” and working in the university advancement and campus ministries departments.

“I’m interested in the corporate identity and support of the ministries of the Province,” said Ross. His previous fundraising experience includes organizing a planned giving campaign to support a Catholic school in South Carolina. “It’s a skill set I’ve come to learn. It’s really relationship building.” As a staff member in development, he worked on alumni events, meet-and-greets, networking activities, and what is called “friend-raising” in the fundraising business.

Ross is in his ninth year as a friar, having spent the first five as a Capuchin Franciscan before transferring to Holy Name Province in 2011. He says he “fell in love with SBU” and will be returning in the fall.

“I will continue to teach, as well as take on an administrative role at a new center that is opening.” While discussing the center is still premature, Ross said he looks forward to sharing his gifts in managing the center and to enroll in a doctorate program for administration and leadership.

The Boston native was wary of how he would adjust to living in rural Western New York, but he adapted nicely and enjoyed the camaraderie of living in community with the other friars at SBU.

“It was an absolute joy to live in a fraternity where we were all committed to a common ministry and mission at the university,” he said. “Everyone has the same ministry and it’s exactly what emanates from what we say: the design of our life as St. Francis said.”

“One of the genius things about Franciscan life is that its apostolate was not defined by our founder,” he continued. “We are not defined by a particular devotion or by the work that we do. We are defined by being in relationship.”

Ross, who was a high school teacher before entering religious life, said he loved his job then and loves his job now. “The life of the campus and the brotherhood inside the friary is more than sustaining, it’s life-giving. The internship didn’t just meet my needs, but excelled beyond.”

Jeffery Jordan
Jeffery was equaled thrilled with his year at St. Bonaventure, where he taught two sections in a Scripture course “Foundational Religious Texts in the Western Tradition” to 140 sophomores, juniors and seniors.

He especially enjoyed teaching how the Abrahamic texts helped shape Western culture, and discussing Hebrew, Christian and Islamic scripture. He also enjoyed clearing up misnomers about Muslims that have arisen since the Sept. 11 attacks. “Since 9/11, there’s been a polemic against Muslims,” he said. “But, Muslims are like cousins to Christians and Jews. All go back to Abraham.”

Students, he said, embraced this message, and the course allowed him to blend his two interests: teaching and Scripture.

“I am very blessed to teach on the university level and offer a course I’m interested in,” Jeffery said. “This internship confirmed to me that teaching is something I want to do. It was everything I thought it would be and more.”

While he acknowledged challenges in the classroom — especially making ancient scripture applicable to 18-year-olds — he said that his youthfulness was helpful in relating to the students.

Jeffery has been approved to continue studying Scripture and will go to the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in September. “I’m very humbled to do this,” he said.

“My internship year allowed me to grow as a friar in many different ways. I was embraced as a friar and a brother, not as a student, not as a person in formation,” he continued. “It allowed me to grow and experience what it means to minister in the Province outside of formation, and was very affirming. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

Michael Reyes
Michael describes his internship as having three parts. “When I was asked what I wanted to do, I said I wanted to focus on 1) further developing my talent as a liturgical artist, 2) gaining a better understanding of formation work, and 3) getting involved in a multicultural parish.”

Working from a base at St. Paul’s Parish, Michael was able to accomplish his three goals.

He helped Ronald Pecci, OFM, director of the postulancy program, with programs for the postulants, continued his work as an apprentice under Robert Lentz in his studio at Holy Name College and served at St. Paul’s and St. Joseph’s in Wilmington.

Describing himself as an artist, Michael said his approach to life is through images more than words. He has appreciated being able to work one week a month in the art studio. “Iconography is so much different than the studio art classes that I have been exposed to,” said the friar. “When I’m painting an icon, it is like spiritual direction and art class all in one.” He has just finished painting an icon of St. Francis and describes the experience as an intimate conversation with the saint. “I painted this icon in preparation for my solemn profession, and I felt I had gotten to know St Francis in a deeper way.”

He also helped Ronald by giving classes, workshops and retreats to the postulants. “I believe that formation is extremely important. The success of our ministries relies on the type of formation we have received as friars in our first years in the Order. You can’t give what you don’t have. Formation is the place where friars are being invited to deeper spiritual maturity, so they will be capable of serving the people of God.”

At St. Paul’s and St. Joseph’s, he did regular parish work, including overseeing the outreach program, prayer groups, and religious education. He also ministered at a nearby jail for women. “It’s the first time I have worked in a jail setting and it was an experience of grace and growth.” He also ministered as a chaplain at St. Francis Hospital in Wilmington.

Drawing from his previous experience as a systems developer, Michael said he gave valuable assistance to Robert in aspects of his work that involve computers and digital editing.

“I did a lot in my internship,” Michael said. “Why did I spread myself out so much? To discover my strengths and go beyond my self-defined capacity.

“There are many ways to evangelize and many ways to serve,” he continued. “The best way is to understand your gifts and strengths and use them for the glory of God and his people.”

After final vows, Michael will return to The Catholic University of America to complete graduate studies in theology before ordination. He will also pursue an artistic career in sacred art.

The three friars will participate in an interprovincial solemn vow retreat next month, which includes a three week study pilgrimage to Franciscan holy places in Italy, culminating in a week of hermitage.

— Wendy Healy is a Connecticut-based freelance writer and frequent contributor to HNP Today.